What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy or Sensitivity?
Food Allergy is the most common word that we are familiar with. However, many people have a food sensitivity. Food sensitivity may even escalate to an allergy because it is simply not recognized. Did you know that when you have a headache, a skin rash, or a stomach ache, it may be an initial sensitivity to various food?
Food Allergy or Sensitivity?
Figuring out the difference can be complex. Food is obviously the foundation of nutrition. Food quality and quantity will determine how healthy or how sensitive a person will be.
An adverse reaction to food appears to be either toxic (e.g. food poisoning) or non-toxic. A nontoxic adverse reaction is typically either a food allergy or food sensitivity.
The symptoms of a “true” food allergy shows up immediately after eating. The symptoms are often very dramatic. For example swelling, hives, welts, or asthma attacks may occur. These foods must be avoided completely because this type of food allergy can be life-threatening (swelling in the throat can interfere with breathing). Common foods with this type of reaction are peanuts or shellfish. Food allergies are typically fatigue, joint pain, congestion, headache, rashes, and chronic intestinal symptoms. In extreme cases, food allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock and death if untreated. A food allergy is mediated by IgE antibodies (specific adaptive immunity). This reaction is considered a “classic allergy”.
Food sensitivity symptoms also range from similar allergy symptoms. They include hyperactivity, bloating, mood changes, or dark circles under the eyes. Food sensitivity may be referred to as an inability to metabolize, digest, or absorb a specific food. Food sensitivity is currently defined as an adverse reaction to a food that is not due to an IgE mediated reaction or a metabolic deficiency. It does, however, appear to involve an immune-inflammatory reaction that may be local or systemic. Also, keep in mind that some food sensitivity symptoms may mimic a food allergy. This is why it is important to rule out IgE-mediated food allergies when testing for sensitivities. IgG symptoms typically occur within 3-72 hours after the offending food was ingested and they will create ongoing inflammation that can make most conditions worse. The degree and severity of symptoms vary greatly from person to
IgE (immunoglobulin E) allergies are the immediate responses to a foreign substance that has entered the body via food or inhalation. IgE allergies can cause very serious symptoms like difficulty in breathing, swelling, and hives. In more serious cases, IgE reactions can lead to anaphylactic shock.
IgG (immunoglobulin G, total) symptoms typically show up in delayed reactions (3-72 hours) after the offending food was ingested. IgG symptoms can create ongoing inflammation that can make most conditions worse. IgG antibodies provide long-term resistance to infections and have a much longer half-life than an IgE allergy. This food sensitivity can be more subtle and many people live with it for years, if not their entire lives.
In the US, approximately 50 million people suffer from allergies. The prevalence of food allergies has been increasing and it is estimated that 50% of adults and 70% of children suffer from food allergies. In extreme cases, food allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock and death if untreated. The symptoms of food allergies are typically fatigue, joint pain, congestion, headache, rashes, and chronic intestinal symptoms.
Common Symptoms May Include:
- Dermatological: Eczema, psoriasis, rashes, itching, acne.
- Gastro-intestinal: Gas, bloating, rectal bleeding, constipation, diarrhea.
- General: Fatigue, mouth ulcers, headache, low-energy, nutritional deficiencies.
- Hormonal: PMS symptoms, thyroid imbalance, insulin resistance.
- Immunological: Decreased ability to fight infections, delayed recovery time.
- Learning Challenges: ADD/ADHD, behavioral problems, memory loss.
- Musculoskeletal: Muscle and joint pain, inflammation, trigger point tenderness.
- Neurological: Brain fog, mood swings, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance.
- Respiratory: Chest tightness, phlegm, wheezing, chronic cough.
Conditions Commonly Related to or Aggravated by Food Allergies
ADD/ADHD Anxiety Celiac IBS/IBD Rheumatoid Arthritis Allergies Crohn’s Lupus Scleroderma Asthma Depression Memory Loss Sinusitis Arthritis Eczema Mood Disorders Low immunity Chronic Fatigue Autoimmune Diseases Fibromyalgia Multiple Sclerosis Behavioral Problems Headaches Poor Digestion Bloating Insomnia Psoriasis
I am not a doctor. I am a Master Nutrition Therapist. I use food therapy as my favorite therapy to approach most chronic diseases and conditions; including obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, and gut diseases. I also use a variety of supplements and subtle energy tools to assist, along with food.
Everything here is my opinion and is provided for educational purposes.
You are responsible for your own health, and the consequences of whatever health care decisions you make.
Are you ready to work with a nutritionist to help you make better food choices?
Call me for a FREE 20-minute phone consultation to see how we could
address your health challenges and make positive changes with real food.
Call Debbie Allen, Functional Nutritionist – Call 303-782-4842.